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Special Olympics Athletes Satisfied as Summer Games Close

by on June 08, 2014 12:00 PM

Shortly after 4:30 on Saturday evening, a great roaring rose up from the East Halls lawn on the Penn State campus.

The gathered crowd of Special Olympics athletes, coaches, volunteers and supporters had been asked if they’d had fun this weekend. The response echoed off the walls of the dormitory halls.

Tippy Hanson, standing beside the flaming Special Olympics cauldron,  thanked his coaches for helping him reach the point where he’s ready to compete in the USA Games next week.

Adam Sheetz, director of regional operations for the Sheetz convenience store chain, continued the tradition of awarding one special athlete with the Sheetz Family Award for Excellence. It “recognizes an athlete who may not have always won awards, but whose effort and sportsmanship is award-winning.”

The trophy went to Armstrong-Indiana County athlete Nicole Ramer. Though she had won three medals over the course of Pennsylvania’s 45th annual summer games, her award-winning efforts were her work off the field: fundraising for her local program, giving public speeches on the importance of the games and helping train her fellow athletes.

“I had no idea I was in the running, but it feels good,” Ramer told StateCollege.com. “I just like helping people.”

Montgomery County Special Olympics athlete Colleen Parker took second place in the softball skills competition earlier in the day. Though a weekend of friendship and fun was nearly over, she didn’t feel said.

Parker says that she participates in various games and sports all year round, and is looking forward to having two weeks to relax before beginning her volleyball training.

Whereas Penn State was a stop along the way for Parker, Nicole Seng from Lehigh County says she’d trained for the past year to qualify to play at Penn State. Her basketball team had to do well at two previous competitions this year to be eligible to come to the summer games.

Their training paid off, with Seng and her teammates heading home with the gold.

“I feel overwhelmed,” Seng said. Though she was proud of her accomplishments, she says “the excitement, the friends, and the fun” are just as important.

During the closing ceremony, the names of the Pennsylvania athletes going to the World Games in Los Angeles in 2015 were announced.

Simone Williams, an athlete for 19 years, said it “feels awesome” to be selected to perform her artistic gymnastic routines on the world stage. Fellow gymnast Amanda Reiss was confident in her abilities and luck, jumping up in joy and shouting, “I told you so!” as her name was announced.

After the world game participants were announced, Bucks County athlete Melissa Warden pulled the flame from the cauldron back to the torch, extinguishing the fire that opened the games on Thursday evening. As Warden rounded the corner and disappeared from view, the games came to a close once again.

“I’m sad to go,” Seng admitted. “But we’ll be back next year.”

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Michael Martin Garrett is StateCollege.com's general assignment reporter, an alumni of Penn State and the bassist for local indie rock band Sun Whales. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelMGarrett.
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